Pitch Interview

The Wires talk alternative classical ahead of Lawrence Arts Center gig Saturday

The Lawrence Arts Center’s Nine Forty Live series has showcased innovative local and regional musicians for the past five years. But its reputation perhaps leans on tried-and-true singer-songwriter bookings more than it does on classical or concert music. The series is open to all genres, but you’re less likely to run into John Cale than you are to hear Grant Hart, Matt Pryor, Drakkar Sauna or Truckstop Honeymoon.

That’s not a complaint, of course, but it’s hard not to feel some excitement ahead of the rare opportunity that awaits on Saturday, February 11. That night, the series stages a show by Kansas City string duo the Wires: Laurel Morgan on violin, and Sascha Groschang on cello.

Fans of local music might be familiar with Morgan’s work as part of the on-again, off-again murder-ballad specialist In the Pines. But the Wires achieves an altogether different sound, and this event promises to entrance — thanks not least to a live video installation by artist Benjamin Parks.

“The video element of this production will make it particularly wonderful,” Ric Averill, the Lawrence Arts Center’s artistic director, writes in an email. “The Wires are amazing musicians and creative collaborative artists. Their music is bold, accessible and fresh.”

Morgan and Groschang are just as eager to play this venue as Averill is to have them, the cellist says.

“It seems like a really great fit,” Groschang says. “Since we don’t strictly play classical music, we often find it difficult to find appropriate venues for our style.It’s either too formal, like a church, or not formal enough, like a bar.”

Given the multidisciplinary aspect of this particular presentation, the Saturday concert looks to fall right in the sweet spot for the Wires and artist Parks (art by whom is seen above). The musicians and the artist have worked together before, several years back, but this time is different. Parks says the evening marks a deep collaboration.

“With this project, we developed the idea together but have worked rather separately in the implementation,” he says, explaining that he sees his work as that of an observer that can then translate the basic emotions of the piece. “Essentially, the visuals consist of taking the documented process of painting and projecting it, and then incorporating the projection into the live performance. The visuals are subtly affected by the instruments, showing the under painting and the layers of color in different ways as the songs progress.”

The Wires’ members have plenty of experience playing what might roundly be referred to as pop, and they’ve been hired for weddings and events, together and with fellow musicians, to play familiar covers. Echoes of that conversance with a more everyday sound are audible on the pair’s first album, Alternative Strings.

“For me, I have used a lot of the rhythmic bass lines and textures in our music,” Groschang says. “And in some ways, we want our music to be accessible, so pop music has informed our form — as in, we like to include a catchy hook.”

It helps that the Wires’ music delivers a percussive snap. This is by design: “Since we are limited with only two [players], we are trying to fill the space with rhythmic aspects as well as melodic to make a more modern sound, so that we sound more like a quartet than just two,” Groschang says.

Averill agrees and goes further, calling their music “driving yet soulful, collaborative, storytelling, accessible.”

The Lawrence performance lets the Wires make a full-blooded case for everything the act does. Beyond a four-segment program meant to represent the four seasons, the show includes a preview of the band’s second album.

“This song starts with birth and follows through the cycle of life,” Groschang says. “From a musical aspect, we based this idea around one of our new pieces that will be on our upcoming album. Sometimes we rehearse — especially when there is wine involved. We have a sort of collaborative vision that informs our writing.”

The Wires

With Benjamin Parks

7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 11, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire, Lawrence, 785-843-2787, lawrenceartscenter.org
http://www.pitch.com/music/blog/20851217/the-wires-talk-alternative-classical-ahead-of-lawrence-arts-center-gig-saturday